Nielsen: Consumers spending more time on social networks, less time with e-mail

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US consumers spend almost a quarter of their online time on social networking sites and blogs, according to research from Nielsen. However, consumers are spending 28% less online time using e-mail, according to the measurement company.

The time consumers spend on social networks jumped 43% from last year's 15.8% of online time. The study, “What Americans Do Online,” also found that e-mail has dropped significantly in its share of online time, from 11.5% to 8.3% of the total. E-mail is now the third most popular online activity, behind social networks at 22.7% and online games at 10.2%, down from second place in 2009.

Other categories also saw double-digit drops, with portals decreasing 19% to 4.4% of Internet time, and instant messaging sinking 15% to 4% overall. This data emphasizes the rapid ascendancy of social media, and serves as a reminder to marketers where consumers are spending their time.

“Five years ago, this was a real niche, but now it's clearly mainstream,” says Peter DeLegge, principal at marketing consultancy B2B Digital.

He added that marketers should follow consumers wherever they go, even into unfamiliar territory.

“I think that's part of the error that marketers make when they assess these things — they think about the longevity. But if your campaign is lasting a few months, I don't think that's a critical factor,” he said. “As soon as the next thing pops up, that's where the people are; that's where you should be.”

The strong showing by online games also points to their potentially overlooked value as a marketing platform. The only other category to show double-digit growth was online videos and movies, which increased 12% to 3.9% of online time.

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